Snowdrop Day: Playing Hooky

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“I don’t wanna go to school!”

“Pleeeez, I’m tired, there’s nothing going on at school today.”

“No, we shouldn’t. Playing hooky isn’t right.”

“Please, Mom? I promise I’ll clean my room and practice.”

“If we do, it’s our little secret.”

The sunshine was illuminating the room with a warm glow. You didn’t need to look out the window for reassurance knowing the sky was cloudless and blue. It would be a great day to be outside.

A dutiful student, my daughter’s attendance record was near perfect. She completed homework assignments. Practiced piano daily. Didn’t skip a beat to help her mother, while Dad was away on a corporate photo assignment. A rugged schedule for any eight year-old, week after week, since early January. Official spring break wouldn’t be for another month!

How could I say ‘no’?

My schedule had also been dutiful. A full-time working mother. {nuff said.} And my husband out of town for business. Exhausting.

I had the time available and my current workload was light. Taking a day off “guilt free” is just what I needed… we needed.

“Ok, let’s take the day off! What would you like to do? Zoo. Museum. Movie. Library. Shopping.”

“What ever you want to do, Mom, is OK with me.”

She’s always been very thoughtful and considerate, thank you.

Skipping down the hall to her bedroom. She peeled off the school uniform. Replacing it with her ‘street clothes’, as if it were Saturday.

We sat, lingering over breakfast and ignoring the dirty dishes. Listening as the morning rush hour noise of the city subdued.

The necessary phone calls to the school and the office completed. Dishes washed and laundry done. The day’s planning began in earnest.

The Lincoln Park Zoo was a nice walk from our condo. And we could stop at a couple of playgrounds along the way.

Young mothers and nannies are out today. Eager to shed the winter coats and boots for lighter jackets and canvas shoes. We want, we need warmth! We yearn for sunshine and gentle lake breezes.

The seasonal clues are everywhere.

Slow down to notice. The birds are singing their songs. Spotting the first robin of the season. The squirrels scurrying. The goslings shuffling in a straight line behind the mother. The tulips merging from the soil. Over in the corner, the snowdrop with its bright white flower, like a headlight in night.

Once at the zoo, we visited all her favorites: tigers, lions, and gorillas. Laughing, talking and munching on popcorn.

Sitting on the bench in the (old) gorilla house, she could get close to the glass. The big gorilla sitting with its back to us. We watched as the others played and moved around.

Photo credit: Ben Seese via Flicker

Suddenly, a young gorilla emerges from behind the protection of the mother. Once my daughter’s excitement eased, she stood there eye-to-eye with the youngster. An intimate conversation between them, yet no words spoken.

A routine stop at the gift store. She convinces me to buy a membership that included a stuffed tiger. (She certainly didn’t need another stuffed toy!) The booklet honored her commitment to the on-going care of the larger striped big cat. Giving her a huge sense of pride.

As we conclude our walk and visits to her favorite enclosures, I begin to direct our path toward the gate. I must have my time at the adjoining Lincoln Park Conservatory. A small slice of paradise in the city. The foliage and orchid rooms are perfect anecdotes to the never-ending Chicago winter.

A pleasant and fulfilling day with my daughter. During dinner, we recall the highlights of the day, and promise to have the same adventure again. Anticipating a call from her father, I remind my daughter that today was a secret adventure for us.

A day of unstructured play and carefree wandering was the hypothetical prescription. Refreshed from the previous day, the 6:00 a.m. alarm without too much grumbling from either of us. We were ready to resume our normal weekday schedule.

Springtime is upon us!